Pushcart 2014: Susan Slaviero, “The Monster: Classifications and Explanations” (Poetry) from Treelight

How to track the monster
Press your sternum to the ground and lift your eye to the rent in the bloodgrass. Seek unnatural leavings: curdled meat in a coconut shell, hexagonal eggs, a shallow grave dug behind a dead girl’s ear. The brush will be freckled with burgundy. It will show patches of blight that suggest salt, or a nuclear detonation. Suckberry. Belladonna. The signs are nebulous. There will be a notable absence of rabbits.

Horror poetry? Really? And, written in the prose-poem form of an instruction manual? Interesting… go see for yourself; the poem’s available online if you’re willing to hunt for it in Issue 8/9 of Ghost Ocean Magazine, and to scroll down a bit once you find Slaviero’s work. It’s part of Slaviero’s chapbook The Murder Book from Treelight Books; they’re really excited to have published a collection with a Pushcart poem, as you can see from the editor’s having stuck the notification on her refrigerator – and posted a photo of same on tumblr. I love that enthusiasm.

There’s some lovely language here, some intriguing ideas (“If it’s a parasitic bloom with the powers of telepathy, you’re probably being digested already, even if you think you’re in a warm parlor….”), and some interesting juxtapositions (like the absence of rabbits) that jar the senses more than the obvious horror elements.

What brings it home is the last section, subtitled “How to know if you are the monster“: “You will never quite believe you are the monster, even when they find you sleeping in a nest of newspaper with a fresh heart in your pocket.” Stepping outside horror to everyday life, haven’t we all done something we self-explained and buffered that, if we able to see from a distance, would shock us?

Of course, some of us start out knowing we are the monster. Some of us are even wrong about that, but it takes a lifetime to figure that out.


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